U.S. Rep. Henry Radel, R-Fla., received one year of probation after pleading guilty on Nov. 20 to a misdemeanor charge of possession of cocaine. “I have no excuse for what I have done,” he told reporters. “I’m owning up to my actions.” But Radel, 37, does not plan to resign. Instead he said he will take a leave of absence from Congress to enter a drug treatment program in Florida.
Legendary former University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, 82, was among 16 Americans awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, by President Obama on Nov. 20. “Even as he won 78 percent of his games, he graduated 96 percent of his players,” Obama said of Smith, who was unable to attend the event and is battling a neurocognitive disorder. Obama also praised Smith’s efforts to integrate Chapel Hill, N.C. Other Americans honored at the event included Oprah Winfrey, former President Bill Clinton, and feminist Gloria Steinem.
A Methodist jury convicted Frank Schaefer, pastor of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon, Pa., of officiating a same-sex marriage and flouting church rules. Schaefer had presided over his son’s gay wedding ceremony in 2007. Although some UMC churches have accepted gay and lesbian members, the denomination officially condemns homosexual practice and bars ministers from performing same-sex ceremonies. The jury suspended Schaefer from church duties and gave him 30 days to decide whether to follow church rules or resign.
One of America’s famous political families is engaged in a high-profile feud: Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, on Nov. 18 defended their two adult daughters who have clashed over same-sex marriage. The statement came a day after Mary Cheney, 44, who is an open lesbian, criticized her older sister, Liz Cheney, 47, who is running in Wyoming for the U.S. Senate, for supporting traditional marriage. Dick and Lynne Cheney wrote that it’s acceptable for Liz to be kind to her sister while not embracing the idea of her same-sex marriage.
Two-time Nobel Prize winner British biochemist Frederick Sanger, 95, died on Nov. 19. Fellow scientists hailed Sanger as one of the greatest scientists ever for his work with proteins and DNA sequencing. The group that funded much of Sanger’s work said it “laid the foundations of humanity’s ability to read and understand the genetic code.” Sanger, who won in 1958 and 1980, became the fourth two-time Nobel winner and the first two-time winner in chemistry.
The McCaughey septuplets turned 16 on Nov. 19. The seven, who live in Carlisle, Iowa, made history in 1997 when they became the first known septuplets to survive infancy. They told The Des Moines Register they’ve been living mostly normal lives in recent years, although two of them, Nathan and Alexis, live with cerebral palsy. Parents Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey have kept their septuplets different in one way: The 16-year-olds don’t have cellphones.